February 18, 2021

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon three times more likely to die with COVID-19

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are three times more likely to die with COVID-19 than the population as a whole, according to U.N. figures that highlight the pandemic’s outsized impact on the community.

An estimated 207,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon after being driven from their homes or fleeing the conflict, the vast majority in cramped camps where social distancing is impossible.

Since Lebanon registered its first case, about 5,800 have been infected with the coronavirus and about 200 of them have died. That is three times the COVID-19 mortality rate for the country as a whole of just over 1%.

Most Palestinians who died after contracting the disease in Lebanon had health conditions such as cardiac or pulmonary issues, which are aggravated by poverty and conditions in the camps. Cramped living conditions and the need to go out to work meant 

Lebanese authorities bar Palestinians from obtaining Lebanese nationality or working in many skilled professions, so the refugees largely make a living doing low-paid labour in construction and crafts, or as street vendors.The focus here is on the economic elements — people go out because they can’t afford to go stay home.

Lebanon has been hammered over the past year by an acute financial crisis and a massive explosion in the capital, as well as facing one of the region’s highest coronavirus infection rates. Nine out of 10 were living in extreme poverty last year.

SEMA US has expanded its healthcare programs in Lebanon, just in time to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 response primarily focuses on increasing access to healthcare for vulnerable communities including Syrian and Palestinian refugees, and will involve adapting medical activities in its own facilities, health promotion in the community, and supporting hospitals with their fight against the outbreak.

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